Osmond Hears With His Heart

Justin Osmond was born with a 90 percent hearing loss.

Imagine that, especially if you were born the son of Merrill Osmond, the lead singer of the world-renowned Osmonds.

Justin, who spoke to the NFPW 2013 conference, said “Imagine life without sound.” As he continued to “speak” the audience could see his lips moving but could hear nothing but the sound of silence.

“That’s what my life was like without hearing aids,” he said as he raised his voice.

Today one in five teenagers has a documented hearing loss, in part, because of the prevalent use of ear buds and playing music on mp3 players too loudly, Justin said.

His hearing lost presented challenges for him, but he chose to challenge his limits. He recognizes his hearing loss and said, “It’s okay. It’s who I am.”

He added, “I have a hearing loss, but that hearing loss does not have me. “

Justin Osmond learned to keep the beat by watching his brother's bow.

Justin Osmond learned to keep the beat by watching his brother’s bow. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

As he smiled and joked with the audience, he shared other popular sayings that contribute to his positive outlook. For example, “If there are no ups and downs in life, it means you are dead.”

He spoke of becoming more assertive and also of service. “Whatever your profession, always make time to help others, to serve one another.” Because of his hearing loss, he established the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, in honor of his late grandmother.

A video he shared showed the many faces of the children the fund has helped. Dry eyes were few in the audience as it watched children receive the gift of being able to hear for the first time. Their faces beamed and they laughed as they came to hear sound.

Justin encouraged the audience to never give up. “You may have a challenge but don’t let those challenges have you.”

As a young boy, Justin learned to play the violin. He could feel the vibrations along his jaw line. However, when he performed with his brothers, he wasn’t sure if he was keeping the beat. Then he struck on the idea to watch his brother’s bow – and he kept the beat.

Justin recently wrote a book, Hearing with My Heart, in which he shares his story with the world in order to help everyone understand the struggles of living with a hearing loss and how to overcome it.

How to Give a Successful Presentation

Whew! The 2013 NFPW Conference has ended.

Normally, I would be quite sad about that and missing all my friends. This year, though, I agreed to give two presentations, and I was scrambling to be ready. Overall, I think they went well (although that’s up to the audience members to really say).

The most difficult part of a presentation – at least for me – isn’t actually giving the presentation, it’s getting it started. I give my fair share of presentations so I thought I’d share a few tips that I have learned along the way.

Define your purpose. What do you want your audience to get from the presentation? Once I’ve determined that, I write it down and keep it front and center as I am preparing. I also focus on how I can explain my points, and, if I’m able to, entertain them a bit. I’m not a comedian, but I find sharing personal anecdotes makes a presentation more human.

Prepare and then prepare some more. For both of my presentations at NFPW, I did hours of research. Not all of it went into the presentation but I wanted to be able to answer any audience questions. I took a day off from work to research and begin organizing my notes. It helped to have a day of uninterrupted time to pull my research and thoughts together.

Simplify. With my purpose clearly defined, I went out of my way to stay on point and to keep the presentation as direct and impactful as possible. I wasn’t trying to impress with fancy slideshows. I wanted to convey information.

Know your audience. With NFPW, I know the audience is going to ask lots of questions. Participants will range from novices to veterans. I always look forward to a veteran member sharing additional information with me – and my audience. Many times I prefer to speak without a PowerPoint presentation because I like to engage and interact with my audience. At NFPW, I chose to use PowerPoint, because I know members are attending lots of sessions and gaining lots of information. Having a few (not hundreds) of slides on which key points are listed, helps to focus an audience. And I never read from slides.

Practice. I do a few practice runs of a presentation to ensure that timing works. I also review the material again to confirm that I am staying true to my objective. If I have time, I ask someone to review it or let me run through it with them. Invariably, I find a few things to tweak.

7 Steps to a Better Blog

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve now written more than 400 posts for my blog. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Determine the purpose of your blog.  I began writing the blog when I became president of NFPW because I wanted to be able to communicate more frequently with members. Many of our members were transitioning from newspapers. Social media was accelerating. Some members were transitioning into leadership roles. Almost all continued to struggle with work/life balance. I decided the blog would focus on communications, productivity and work/life balance. I travel a lot and use the trips for fodder if they relate to those three areas. Otherwise, you’re not going to get a travelogue on my blog. (Who knows, maybe I’ll write a travel blog sometime.)

2. Write about trends and news. I subscribe to numerous publications and receive tons of email filled with reports and statistics. All of that becomes fodder for the blog. I wrote about Pinterest before most of my readers had heard about it. I was already experimenting with it so I wanted to share what I had learned.

3. Post regularly. When I started the blog I committed to posting on Wednesdays and Sundays. I keep a Word document that lists all of the Wednesdays and Sundays. I fill it in with the title of my blog posts. Ideas are listed at the bottom. Key dates such as the NFPW conference are highlighted so I know I’ll have fodder on those days.

Keeping a content calendar allows me to plan what I need to write for the blog.

Keeping a content calendar allows me to plan what I need to write for the blog.

This summer I knew it would be a challenge to stick to that schedule so I scaled back to once a week (so I actually followed work/life balance advice). That also meant my blog visits decreased, but I wanted to ensure that I would at least blog once a week. Had I tried to stick with twice a week, I suspect I would have stopped all together. I’ll resume twice a week postings after Labor Day, and I’ve already begun researching and writing a few of those blogs.

4. Post on week days. I have seen this advice numerous times, but I break this rule. Many of my followers are busy communicators so a Sunday post means they have a bit more time to read it. The Sunday post also gives me Saturday as a writing day, which I often need. I also post on Wednesdays for those who are reading at work.

5. Leverage social media. I share my blog on Facebook and LinkedIn. Once in a while I try to tweet it, but I just haven’t embraced tweeting yet. LinkedIn works well for me because it’s a professional audience and members often share my posts, which I appreciate.

6. Leverage SEO. I think about what terms people will use to search and work to weave those into my posts. I sometimes sacrifice a creative headline so I can incorporate the appropriate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) words.

7. Use art to make the post visually interesting.  I find that when I include a photo, my blogs are more often read. Last year I had lots of photos because I also was doing a photo a day project, which generated art fodder for the blog. This year I’m struggling a bit to find appropriate art. I also need to build in time to find the art or take photos that would illustrate the point.

These tips aren’t magical. They do, however, require work, which is what it takes to have a successful blog.

4 Years and Counting

I was reviewing my stats for my blog and discovered that I have written more than 400 posts!

The blog began shortly after I was elected president of the National Federation of Press Women. My goal was simple: “I hope to use this platform as a means to share with other members, potential members, and anyone who just enjoys communicating in today’s world.”And thus Cynthia’s Communique was launched.

My topics are communications, productivity and work/life balance. I learn as I go. At first I was disheartened because the blog didn’t get many comments. And yet when I run into readers, they often tell me to keep up the good work. Work colleagues also will reference the blog so I know the readership is there.

It’s slowly growing, too. Sometimes I am better about nurturing it. (My next post will talk about how to write a successful blog, and will reference things I need to do better as well.)

My blog followers have been steadily increasing but I saw a dip this summer. That’s okay because I made a conscious decision to only post once a week instead of my usual twice a week. Most people who read blogs have no idea how often a blog publishes or what day the blog publishes. They simply get it as part of an RSS feed or as an email to their inbox.

When I posted that I would be scaling back, I heard from several who applauded me for my efforts to slow down some. Scaling back enabled me to finish several projects for NFPW this summer. Had I not consciously scaled back I would have either missed several self-imposed deadlines for my blog and/or not finished projects for NFPW.

As a communicator, I found the blog helps me research topics and distill the topic into the key points I need. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others and it fits with my effort to pay it forward. Writing a blog also forces me to write each week. Of course, writing for communicators is a challenge because if I have not carefully edited my work, someone is quick to call me out on a grammatical error (please keep doing so!).

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who subscribes to the blog, reads it and/or passes it on to others. I hope you will help me to continue to grow it by sharing it. And, equally important, let me know what you like and also what you want to see more of.